Thursday, August 13, 2009

No Show Here: St Louis Rams Season Preview

2008 Record: 2-14

The Rams shocked the world last year. Admit it. When you looked at their schedule at the beginning of the season, if someone would have told you they would finish 2-14, would you have been surprised? Probably not. However, if that same person had told you they would have beaten Washington on the road and Dallas at home in back-to-back weeks? Unbelievable.

Like Detroit, St. Louis got a complete face-lift coming into this season. Scott Linehan was fired after 4 games. Jim Haslett was promoted from Defensive Coordinator with the worst defense in the league to head coach. Haslett won 2 games, then lost 10 in a row. The old coaching staff is gone, replaced by former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who has a much better record of success as a coordinator than Haslett.

The Rams face an uphill battle. However, the building blocks are in the right places. 2008 #2 overall pick Chris Long is someone to build a defense around. Similarly, 2009 #2 overall pick Jason Smith will replace the departed Orlando Pace on the offensive line. Steven Jackson is dangerous out of the backfield, but he has had injury problems the last few seasons.

St. Louis is far from the "greatest show on turf" years of the early 2000s. Now they're barely even a show. The Rams finished last season 30th in scoring offense, 26th in passing offense, 25th in rushing offense, and 27th in turnovers. On the other side of the ball, they were 31st in scoring defense, 19th in pass defense, and 29th in run defense. Don't let that pass defense number fool you though. They were so bad against the run, teams didn't need to throw. The Rams defense held teams to fewer than 100 rushing yards only 3 times (New England 98, Arizona 63, San Francisco 83), gave up over 175 rushing yards 7 times, and over 200 yards 5 times. That is not the recipie for success.

The Rams didn't do much to help themselves in free agency, though they were able to bring in center Jason Brown from Baltimore. Kyle Boller was also brought in from Baltimore, presumably to be the backup QB to Central Catholic alum Marc Bulger. Bulger has gotten absolutely pounded in recent years due to some terrible offensive line play.

If the Rams want to get out of the top 5 draft picks, they will need improved play from 2007 first round pick Adam Carriker along the defensive front. Run defense will be key for Spagnuolo's team, though their pass defense isn't really anything to be scared of either. Second round pick James Laurinaitis will be an instant upgrade at the middle linebacker position and should provide some good leadership in the middle of the defense.

With receivers Torry Holt and Dante Hall gone, Donnie Avery is really the only threat in the passing game, as tight end Randy McMichael will be called on to block most of the time. The Rams offense will primarily run through Steven Jackson, either running the ball or throwing it to him out of the backfield. There's not much to get excited about for St. Louis fans, and it looks like this might be another year of wallowing in misery. This team is, at best, two years away. They have a solid young core to build around, and will continue to improve via the draft. Franchise-building is difficult, and St. Louis has a long way to go.

Ian's Prediction: 2-14

If it wasn't for their November 1 game against Detroit, you could make the argument that the Rams don't have a winnable game on their schedule. However, as they showed last year, they are an NFL team and can win games every now and them. If you're in a pick-em league, don't pick the Rams in any week. If you're betting, maybe throw a few bucks their way as an upset special if you see a favorable matchup (a team on a losing streak going to St. Louis). The Rams have the NFC North and AFC South, meaning their terrible run defense gets to stack up against Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, and Maurice Jones-Drew. Their December schedule is brutal with @Chi, @Ten, Hou, @Ari and then a finale against division rival San Francisco.

John's Prediction:

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